Cardiff Council plans for five new ‘smart billboards’ sparks controversy

Campaigners have voiced concerns over plans for new digital advertising boards across Cardiff claiming they will distract motorists, clutter pedestrian walkways and damage the climate.

It follows after Cardiff Council put forward five new “interactive communications hub units” in Central Square, Wood Street, 1-4 Greyfriars Road, Ty Admiral David Street and Adam Street.

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These kiosks, built by JCDecaux UK Ltd, would contain public service facilities on one side and a digital billboard on the other.

This includes a range of services such as:

  • Free Wi-Fi and phone calls (including “rapid connection to emergency services”)
  • Defibrillators
  • Wayfinding
  • Device charging
  • And would capture environmental data, CCTV and air quality monitoring

But Adblock Cardiff, who protest against advertising in public spaces, disagrees, arguing that public authorities should not be encouraging “the proliferation of climate-damaging screens”.

They claimed the harms of advertising in public spaces outweigh the benefits, citing footfall congestion, road accidents and environmental issues.

These billboards use an enormous amount of electricity in the middle of the climate emergency. Each of these units uses about the same amount of electricity as four domestic households.

Ed Bridges, Adblock Cardiff

Adblock Cardiff commended the public services provided, but argued the board’s advertising side went against Cardiff Council’s policies regarding climate change and “creating a child-friendly city”.

There’s absolutely benefits to having defibrillators and Wi-Fi hotspots… but don’t use those elements as the Trojan Horse to sneak in extra, unnecessary, climate-damaging, public advertising.

Ed Bridges, Adblock Cardiff

However, Cardiff Council said the applications “are not for or submitted by the council” and that they “are extremely limited in our powers to control” applications made to them.

They agreed with AdBlock Cardiff’s findings and “will make every effort to ensure that distractions are kept to a minimum, pedestrian walkways are as clutter-free as much possible and where we have control to influence, electricity consumption is via sustainable means”.

Adblock’s branches in London’s Lambeth and Hackney have also previously successfully campaigned to have similar council proposals rejected.